IN ALL THINGS, LET’S AIM FOR QUALITY, RATHER THAN QUANTITY
Just over a month ago, I wrote an article on this website about Jesus’ expressed desire that his followers should very definitely be disciples. (If you haven’t read the article already, you’ll find it immediately below this one, on this Home Page.) Among other points that I made, I claimed that any kind of ‘Evangelism’ in which Christians engage should aim at winning people who would have a serious lifelong commitment to walking daily with the Lord, to learning from Him and to doing what He says – rather than simply aiming at making ‘converts’, or even ‘believers’.
As I wrote, it occurred to me that such a policy would mean that the number of people we could claim to have been “added to the Church” would be greatly reduced! However, I didn’t want to make that previous ‘sermonette’ any longer than it already was, so I didn’t enlarge on the point.
Now I am feeling that more needs to be said on the subject. There is no doubt that our Evangelism would seem to be much less effective if we ‘raised the bar’ – but would this really be the case? If we produce a response that is anything less than genuine discipleship, have we really ‘won someone for Christ’? If our ‘converts’ are not left with a powerful and lasting sense of “Jesus is Lord”, are they really converts at all? Let us rid ourselves of the obsession with numbers that is a feature of much Christian thinking, and aim for quality and depth of response. I know that, for most readers of this website, ‘evangelism’ will be informal and personal, rather than formal and public – an integral part of our relating with others. Let us keep remembering, however, that numbers are not the issue. In that aspect of our lifestyle that could be called “Evangelism”, I am convinced that it is better to end up with a limited number of definite disciples, than with big numbers of people who have only a tenuous link to Jesus. (It is true that people can grow in commitment, but that is no excuse for aiming at something other than what Jesus asks of us in the “Great Commission”.) Let us be guided by quality, not quantity.
This principle also applies, of course, to every aspect of our relating to others. We are called to serve our fellows ‘across the board’ – caring about the whole person, and not exclusively the spiritual side. One of the reasons my wife and I moved out of the “Organised Church” was that the set-ups we were part of – in every church where we were involved, over the years – didn’t really give us time for that quality of attention-to-others. (I am not saying that that is necessarily always the case, but it was certainly our experience.) However, since then, we have had to resist the temptation to become extremely busy with lots of people, in order to feel we are still “doing as much” as we used to do. That’s not good. I become increasingly sure that there is very little merit in the number of people with whom we are in contact. In that aspect of our lifestyle that could be called “Caring for Others” I am convinced that it is better to maintain thorough links with a limited number of people, than to have superficial links over a wide range. (Needless to say, this mustn’t be made a passport for an easy life – but if we constantly seek the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance, we’ll get the balance right.) Once again, it’s a question of quality, not quantity.
Finally, it is particularly important that the motto “Quality, not Quantity” applies, also, to our Fellowship-with-other-Christians – because Fellowship is one of the main sources of strength and encouragement for everything else to which the Lord calls us. Believers are told to “build each other up”, and to “spur one another on toward love and good works”. If we are to engage in Quality Evangelism, and give Quality Care, we will need Quality Fellowship!
Now, those of us who have experienced a “calling-out” from the traditional church-system have usually found that the immediate result was a state of comparative isolation! Our opportunities for fellowship seemed to diminish considerably. It is true that modern methods of communication enable us to keep in vital touch with supportive fellow-Christians wherever they are, country-wide or even world-wide. Nevertheless, I believe that the optimum situation in God’s plan is that we have a local church family – folks we can relate to in the flesh. Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families” and, happily, the experience of complete isolation has been a transitional phase for a great many of us. Eventually, we have found some others, at least, with whom we can relate well.
Having said that, though, I must emphasise that, in the matter of fellowship, numbers are not important. A biological family doesn’t need to be large to be supportive. The same is true of a “church family”. If you are in touch with even a small number of fellow-believers in your area – whom you find a blessing to you in your Christian life, and to whom you, in turn, seek to be a blessing – you have the fellowship you need. (Once again, this should not be an excuse for failing to reach out to other Christians whom you might be able to encourage, and who might give encouragement to you.) Generally speaking, however, don’t worry if your local church-family is small, so long as it is supportive.
I have come to the conclusion that all Christians need to abandon their obsession with numbers. Those of us who have broken with the systems of the past are in a particularly good position to do this, and to focus on quality rather than quantity. Let us not worry about how big (or how small) our local church-family is, so long as we have brothers and sisters near-by, with whom we can engage in “one-anothering” as the New Testament urges us to do. Let us be serious about serving others in Jesus name, but not bogged down in counter-productive busy-ness, in some kind of attempt to prove our commitment. And let us beware of falsely boosting the numbers of those “added to the church” by being content with any response to Jesus that is less than whole-hearted discipleship. Quantity is deceptive! Quality in all things!